By its very title, “Catskills on Broadway” suggests it’s different than the popular standup comedy routines in countless clubs and TV specials — and it is. For more than two hours without break, four quite different comedians hold the attention of a large audience with good-natured but sharply observed humor, a type made famous in New York’s Catskill Mountain resorts.
Conceived and hosted by Freddie Roman, the show, often Jewish in orientation, plugs into timely events of the day while taking the spirit of the Catskill performances of such talents as Woody Allen, Jerry Lewis, Joan Rivers, Danny Kaye, Milton Berle, Joey Bishop and Mel Brooks.
While the humor is often innocuous, at times the performers wonderfully probe the actions of the human animal.
The evening begins with a brief slide show of the Catskill resorts of yesteryear, then Roman takes over for more than half an hour, covering such topics as dry heat, life on the road, New York of his youth, retired people and the state of Florida. “The definition of schmuck?” he asks, trying to explain Yiddish. “It’s someone who gets out of the shower to take a leak.”
Louise DuArt specializes in impressions. She deftly runs through a pantheon of people, mostly female. She has a number of recognized personalities stuck in an elevator together, including Edith Bunker, the Wicked Witch of the West and Popeye. She becomes Cher giving birth to her new boyfriend, and, in a touching routine, she plays George Burns talking to his late wife Gracie in heaven.
Dick Capri brings an Italian outlook on life. “Italian Alzheimer’s disease: You forget everything but a grudge.” He lights on such topics as his own family history, aging, drugs, death, life in the Catskills, and soap operas if they had a Jewish spin to them –“You’d have such names as ‘All My Children … Are Too Busy to Call Me.’ ” In a mime routine, Capri creates a vivid maskmaker.
Mal Z. Lawrence is an outgoing social commentator, a unique blend of George Carlin-style stories with the kind of wild abandon of Robin Williams. Like the legendary comedians of the Catskills, he often focuses on the differences between men and women, being single and married, and the joys of eating. In parody, he skewers Sylvester Stallone, Dean Martin, Johnny Mathis and Bruce Springsteen, among others. And like the other members of the show, he’s so adroit with just a microphone and a curtain, the laughs come fast, the time goes quickly.
Musical director Joseph Baker and his seven-piece band serve the performers well when needed.